In a matter of seconds, cheers turned to chaos near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. Suddenly an iconic day was awash with blood and panic.
Two explosions only seconds apart and within 550 feet of each other shattered the festivities, leaving three dead and more than 170 people injured, with several still in critical condition. Videos of the tragedy recorded one of the explosions as a fiery flash followed by a plume of smoke as people hurried from the site, a few of them knocked over by the blast. Fortunately, there were a number of ambulances at the event, though hardly enough to deal with the accumulating number of maimed bodies.
An 8-year-old boy is among the dead, and at least two other children are listed among those injured by a bomb that was contained in a pressure cooker and carried in a backpack, according to reports. As we go to press, no suspects have been arrested. No individual or group has claimed responsibility.
As first responders in Boston rushed to the site, other cities, including New York and Washington, D.C., quickly went on alert, as they did when 9/11 occurred. It has not been determined whether the perpetrators were foreign or domestic, though there were initial reports that law enforcement officials were seeking “a dark-skinned man with a foreign accent.”
Upon being notified of the blast and the casualties, President Barack Obama was at first hesitant to characterize the attack as terrorism, requesting that caution be exercised while the investigation proceeds. However, later on Tuesday with additional information, he said, “This was a heinous and cowardly act, and given what we know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians; it is an act of terror.”
He went on to tell reporters gathered at the White House, “What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack or why, whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual.
“Clearly we’re at the beginning of our investigation,” the president continued. “It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened. But we will find out. We will find whoever harmed our citizens, and we will bring them to justice.”
Several commentators appear to be leaning toward a domestic terrorist, a few of them referring to the incidents in Waco, Texas, in 1995; the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1999; and the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007–all of which occurred in April and near the birthday of Adolf Hitler, who is honored by many crazed persons and zealots.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly held a press conference to assure residents that every precaution was being taken to intercept any possible terrorist attack in the city. All major tourist sites, including Times Square, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, and wherever else large numbers of people gather, have been assigned additional police officers.
On Tuesday, to demonstrate that all was well in the city, Bloomberg took a subway ride and told the press, “We don’t know much about the motives or the perpetrators of the bombings in Boston, but we do know that this was an act of terror, and that terrorism remains a serious threat. Since yesterday afternoon, we have mobilized our resources to protect New Yorkers from any related threats that might emerge.”
Even so, as all our public officials and civil leaders know there is no way to guaranteed 100 percent safety.
That sign suggesting, “If you see something, say something,” may be the best advice in this age of terrorism and when our elected officials are still at odds on what to do about gun violence.